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Gender in discourse behaviour in parent–child dyads: a literature review


Ursula Lanvers, University of Exeter, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, Heavitree Road, Exeter EX1 2 2LU, UK


Background  This literature review on gender differences in child–parent interaction links two types of research bodies gathered over the last decades, on the one hand early between-child and within-child differences, and, on the other hand, parental discourse differences with children.

Method  Relevant individual studies, as well as two meta-analyses investigating gender in child–parent dyadic interaction, are evaluated, addressing differences in parental gender and child gender, early evidence of child gender differences in discourse, and child adaptations to interlocutors in general. Methodological problems of data gathering of both child and parental language are discussed, as well as the logical caveats of linking input to acquisition patterns.

Result  The findings allow no final conclusion regarding the issue of early gender socialization through language but indicate two contrasting hypotheses concerning the importance of early gendered linguistic interaction.

Conclusion  The paper concludes with a discussion of research designs which might allow further differentiation between existing theoretical accounts of early gender socialization through language.